LONDON — One day of track and field complete. One Olympic medal for the United States.
Competing in his third Olympic Games, Reese Hoffa became a medal winner for the first time Friday night, capturing bronze in the shot put with a throw of 21.23 (69 feet 7.8 inches). He adds that prize to his 2007 World Championship.
“Throughout the entire competition, I felt like there was always that puncher’s chance that I would be able to get that throw that might potentially win,” said Hoffa, 34. “But there were a lot of delays and I’m an old dog. And I came out with a medal. That’s pretty awesome.
“If I would have walked away from this Olympics without a medal, I would have been even more disappointed. Not only did I come away with a medal, I continued the tradition of the US getting medals in the shot put. I’m a pretty traditionalist person. We consistently win the world indoor championships. We consistently win medals at the Olympic games. I want to be part of that history.”
Hoffa continued the US streak of Olympic shot put medals started in 1984. In fact, the US has been a model of consistency in the event. With the exception of the boycotted 1980 Moscow Games, the US has failed to win an Olympic medal in only 1936 and 1976. At both Games, the top American finished fourth in that event.
“It does make me part of a club because you really haven’t done anything in the US until you have that Olympic medal. To be in the same class as John Godina who’s a three-time world champion, Adam Nelson who’s got more silver medals in major competitions, kind of carried the US in a way, to be part of that history is big to me. Also, being able to perform at a 21-meter level on a consistent basis is big.”
With a season best throw of 21.89 (71 feet 9.8 inches), Poland’s Tomasz Majewski won gold and Germany’s David Storl took silver on a 21.86 (71 feet 8.6 inches) toss. Hoffa and fellow American Christian Cantwell were tied for third after two rounds. In the third round, Hoffa unleashed his medal-winning throw, though he thought the combination of chilly weather and frequent delays because of the women’s heptathlon took away some of his competitive edge and kept him from performing better.
“It was hard to get a rhythm,” said Hoffa. “I wasn’t executing my technique the best I possibly could. I know there was a lot more there.”
The same could be said for athletes competing in the women’s 100-meter heats, but for different reasons. There were no surprises in Round 1, as all the big names and all three Americans easily advanced to the semifinals. US sprinter Carmelita Jeter let all qualifiers with the fastest time on Friday evening, clocking 10.83 seconds. Tianna Madison finished in 10.97 seconds, while Allyson Felix crossed the line in 11.01 seconds.
“I just had to come out and execute like my coach wanted me to do,” said Jeter. “I still have two more rounds to go. Everybody is definitely gonna be running their hearts out tomorrow, and right now I’ve just got to go back, talk to my coach and get prepared.”
In the women’s 10,000 meter final, the three US entrants never were in medal contention, though all three ran personal bests. Amy Hastings finished in 11th in 31:10.69, Janet Cherobon-Bawcom finished 12th in 31:12.68 and Lisa Uhl finished 13th in 31:12.80. Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba won her second straight Olympic gold in the event with a 30:20.75 finish.
“I was hoping for better, but you know I ran as hard as I could,” said Hastings. “I feel like I stayed tough throughout the whole things and I’m just going to keep working on improving my time. Eventually, I’m going to be able to run with those girls [the top finishers]. They ran incredible.”
Added Uhl: “It was the fastest 31 minutes 12 seconds of my life. It flew by. Honestly, I just tried to find people to hold on to and stick to. I wanted to try to be top 10, so I just put myself between 10th and 15th place the majority of the time.”
With the women’s 100-meter finals tomorrow, more US medals are expected on Day 2.